"You can go to work on foot or by bike, there’s a friendly atmosphere in the neighbourhood and you have all the convenience of a big city"
Why did you leave Catalonia?
I decided to finish my Architecture degree in Delft with the Erasmus Programme and then I stayed in Rotterdam for an internship; both experiences lasted 16 months. Although I had already travelled at that time, it was during this adventure that the desire of discovering other ways of living, working and doing was awoken in me.
Thus, I went back to celebrate Christmas with the idea of making a fresh start. While I was waiting for scholarship answers that I had asked for, I went to Madrid for a job and it was there that I received a call.
Why did you choose Besançon?
I didn’t, it was random! It was Besançon or nothing. A programme called Eurodyssey offered me a scholarship in Besançon which consisted in taking French lessons for a month and doing a paid internship for half a year.
I immediately looked up Besançon on a map. It was a good location, not far from Strasbourg, Lyon and Switzerland, and I didn’t hesitate. I thought that seven months would pass quickly even in the event that it wasn’t a good choice, but I’m still here!
How long have you lived there?
Since February 2006, so 12 years more or less.
Are you happy with the job opportunities you found in your adoptive country?
I’m fine! You have to come to terms with it only being a small city, but I can deal with that. I was employed in the agency where I had done my internship for 5 years but then I wanted to progress so I decided to go freelance. It’s always difficult to become self-employed, but it’s easier in France than in Catalonia. There you can take get a lot more support for setting up a new business. In addition to that, I had the opportunity to take a quick course in self-employment which helped a lot.
What do you think is the best thing about living in Besançon?
The quality of life. You can go to work on foot or by bike, there’s a friendly atmosphere in the neighbourhood and you have all the convenience of a big city but also the countryside nearby. I like the fact that Besançon has lots of green spaces in the town centre, which is pedestrian.
What do you consider the highlights for any brief visit for the first time?
Getting lost in the city centre, climbing up to the Citadel to have fantastic views of the “boucle”, which is what all the locals call the town centre. And let yourself be carried away by your senses.
And if visitors have more time or make a return visit?
There are plenty of great places not far away: Ornans, La Vallée de la Loue, Baume les Messieurs, Château Chalon, to name a few. It’s a good area to go walking, be in contact with nature and do sports like kayaking or skiing, as well as cultural activities.
What do you miss most from home?
The sea, even more than the sun.
Do you plan to go back to Catalonia?
I have never seriously considered it. I always say I will come back when I retire but who knows? Maybe the right time will be when Catalonia achieves independence! However, I try to come back home as much as I can and I would like to do that even more.
CATALANS ABROAD Besançon (France)
SOME SUGGESTIONS:Berta Coll
Can you recommend a place to have lunch with friends? Le 4 Saisons and Le Vin et l’Assiette.
Where would you have a special dinner for two? Le Phenix.
When is the best time of year to plan a visit?
May, June and July. In autumn the landscape is also very beautiful; however, it’s cold and it rains often.
What is the best kept secret about the area? Everyone has his or her own, but I especially the small places that Besançon let us discover little by little.